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Today a little cocorico, when a French company invaded China with an Ecodurable city project.

As China experiences rampant urbanization, its decision-makers are increasingly interested in sustainable urban development. An opportunity for French professionals in the sector, encouraged by the State.

Here is an article by Gael Gerard in Pekin

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Originally, Thierry Jacquet had no plans to expand his activity in China. Founder of Phytorestore, a French SME specializing in the treatment of water and soil by plants, he was contacted in 2004 by the municipality of Shanghai to clean up three rivers. " At the time, it was a little too early to really establish ourselves. Shanghai was ahead of the rest of the country He remembers. However, with 8 employees on site, he now considers China as " one of its priority axes. "In fact, Chinese decision-makers are currently aware of the urgency of making their cities more sustainable, believes the entrepreneur, whose activity in China continues to grow.

Extensive urbanization

The potential market is enormous: the country's urbanization rate rose from 26% in 1990 to over 50% in 2011, and should reach 62% in 2030, with the creation of many new towns. So far, urbanization has been carried out in an unsustainable manner, notably with an approach to the city favoring the use of private vehicles. " The Chinese model of urbanization is particularly extensive. It is an urban sprawl that occurs by juxtaposing objects - business parks, residential districts, transport infrastructures - which are not linked to each other. No account is taken of environmental, topographical or cultural asperities », Comments Jean-François Doulet, lecturer at the Paris urban planning institute and deputy director of the Franco-Chinese center Villes Territoires.

"French touch"?

In this context, France has assets, but it lags behind other countries such as Germany, Sweden or England, which are better established in the country. The sustainable city has become an important but very competitive global market and the French government has understood this well: for several years, it has been trying to highlight French expertise in this area. A " French touch"Which stands out by offering, in addition to technical solutions," a more human approach, a global understanding of the issues allowing a contextualized action », Specifies Jean-François Doulet.

At the beginning of April, an agreement on sustainable urban development covering the period 2007-2012 was renewed for a period of five years by the Minister of Ecology Delphine Batho during President Hollande's visit to Beijing. Purpose of the operation: " promote the excellence of the technologies and know-how of French groups and innovative SMEs ” in green economy.
In addition to various institutional cooperation programs (such as the training of Chinese town planners in France), the agreement relaunches for 5 years the experimentation carried out in the Greater Wuhan area since 2010. This urban complex of nearly 30 million inhabitants d he inhabitants located in central China was chosen to be a showcase bringing together French know-how. In three years, many projects have been launched there, such as the thermal rehabilitation of public buildings financed by the French Development Agency (AFD), or the design and management of a multi-modal transport hub for the airport. of Wuhan, (the two projects involving French companies).

French delay

In addition, the French consultancy firm URBA 2000 has carried out several urban planning projects with local authorities, in particular around the territory of Lake Liangzi. However, for lack of a real steering committee, all these projects remain disparate and we still seem to be far from the stated ambition: to create a common dynamic in order to promote a " offers global ”French sustainable city. " We need to agree on a way to organize our forces well. If we succeed then we can catch up », Judge Pierre Mayet, president of URBA 2000.

In the meantime, French companies are taking advantage of the opportunities offered by the Chinese market as much as possible. Thus, Suez Environnement, which already manages 200 water treatment plants in China, should soon embark on waste treatment thanks to the creation of a joint venture with a Chinese player in the sector. For his part, Thierry Jacquet is working on setting up a Chinese branch of Phytorestore. For the SME, China offers more than a simple market: it allows the development of new projects, which can perhaps be developed later in other countries. " In France or in Europe, explains the entrepreneur, no one would dare to choose an alternative solution like the one we are proposing for an area of ​​50 inhabitants. Here it is considered a small project.

Source: novethic

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